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Meter readers work for companies that provide utilities or services to customers. They are responsible for traveling to different residential and commercial locations on assigned routes and gathering accurate data about the amount of utilities used. Many meter readers work for gas, electric, and water companies. They have excellent mathematics skills and knowledge of accurate recordkeeping. Meter readers have strong customer service skills, are self-motivated, and require little to no experience before beginning a long-term career.
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Utility meter readers connect and disconnect utilities at different locations. Gas, electric, steam consumption, and water meters all must be read with electronic devices, or the findings must be written down in a route book to enter into the computer at the end of the collection route. Readers drive or walk down specific routes to gather information from each customer on that route.
Meter readers check meters on properties for defects and damage as well as for signs of utility theft with unauthorized connections to any systems. Readers must report all lost or broken utility keys to their supervisors immediately. Reports must also be made about any problems with the meters or about difficulty getting to the meter to read them. This includes reporting aggressive dogs to the proper authority.
Meter readers are responsible for recognizing abnormal output of utilities, such as extremely high electricity, gas, or water usage, and for finding the source of the utility leak or problem before repairing it.
Customer service plays a large role in this position. Meter readers must be able to keep a cool disposition in situations where customers are extremely unhappy about disconnection due to non-payment. Readers will direct customers to the proper customer service or collections representatives via telephone and answer pertinent questions whenever possible. Meter readers may also have the opportunity to collect past due bills instead of disconnecting service. In the case that meters aren’t accessible at the time of connection, disconnection, or reading, meter readers make arrangements with the customer for a time to be able to access the equipment to get an accurate read.
Meter readers use physical activity to do their jobs, including considerable movement of the hands, arms, and legs. Readers climb, lift, and sometimes balance to get meter information, and the job requires a lot of walking.
Once meter readers are finished with their route, they must take their route books back to the utilities office and enter the findings into the computer, or hand the books off to another employee that is responsible for data entry. If this is the case, the meter readers must neatly transcribe and record the information into their route books so that their writing can be easily read without error.
Many meter readers begin their careers in entry-level positions that only require a high school diploma or GED. Training is primarily on the job, but some vocational opportunities are out there for individuals that wish to advance within the field.
Skills in the areas of computers and mathematics are very useful for meter readers, as well as attention to detail and the ability to follow driving directions and stay on route. Communications skills are a must, as utility meter readers will go on private property and often meet up with customers while they are reading the utility meters. For this reason, it is also useful for meter readers to have a strong ability to speak the English language, or the language most spoken in the area where they will be reading meters.
For prospective students that are considering this as an employment opportunity but still want to attend college, there are degree programs that suit this field well. An associate degree in electronics and computer technology; an associate degree in information technology; a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering technology; a bachelor’s in mechatronics; or a career diploma in basic electronics or as an electronics technician can give suitable backgrounds and perspectives relevant to the position as a utility reader.
Meter readers should have an easy time with numbers and should express their findings through writing. They should be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide in their head quickly and easily. The ability to see things at a close range is also necessary. Meter readers have to be self-motivated workers because they primarily work alone, with a specific itinerary that must be completed.
Meter readers spend the majority of their hours on the clock driving from location to location and in the various backyards of customers reading the physical meters. Readers should be prepared to spend quite a bit of time outdoors and to interact with customers.
There can be many positive aspects of this workplace; working in a solitary environment is a job benefit for many people, as well as spending a lot of time in the open air. However, disconnecting utilities can be demanding work due to the level of patience and good customer service the readers must have. It can be difficult work as well trying to get around people’s dogs to gather information.